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The players are back home, spectators have left, TV sets are off. No hockey commentary to listen too. No office chatter since we are on a break.
No more updating matches, no more scores to put up, no more stats to create, no more instagramming, no notifications of teams being knocked out, players breaking records or scoring hat-tricks.
Phew! That addictive, emotional, roller-coaster of a ride called ‘FIH Olympic Qualifiers’ is finally over, although my Instagram feed is full of stories of success and loss.
Some teams are mourning their loss, while some are celebrating their win.
Yes, they are worthy of this celebration. But, there are 14 teams who did not qualify and some worked really hard, moved oceans, moved mountains and my heart sincerely goes out for them.
The road to the Olympic Qualification has been a complicated one, lets not forget an expensive one. For teams, who could not make the cut for Tokyo 2020, I just want you to know that it’s ‘okay’.
It’s okay to feel down. It’s also okay to feel uncertain about your future at this point.
Coming to the point, we can all agree that this was one of the most entertaining hockey tournaments of this year—the relentless drama, surprises and emotions of it all.
The qualifiers were full of overflowing feelings and emotions.
We have never seen players crying tears of joy after a World Cup win, but that’s exactly what we saw teams do after their Olympic qualifying victories.( yes both moments and event are not comparable).
In historic terms, the 2019 Olympic Qualifiers will be remembered for many nerve-wracking and unforgettable moments.
Pakistani MNT scaring the Netherlands in their first match, France MNT’s explosive display against Spain, Chinese WNT’s comeback in the last three minutes, Rani saving India’s back, Ireland and Canada WNT’s dramatic shoot-out, are matches with some standout hockey performances that will be remembered for a long, long time.
FIH Qualifiers a ‘super success’
The FIH Olympic Qualifiers, has been delivered at its finest, and even though this format has illustrated the cavernous variance in quality between the countries, there have still been some incredible moments to savour.
Every player at this Olympic Qualifier — put on the most incredible show that you could ever ask for.
The Qualifiers have been huge success. The standard of hockey [minus a VU controversy] has been good, crowds in stadiums impressive and some nations registered record-breaking TV audiences.
Women’s hockey like never before
While 75% of the men’s matches were predictable, the women’s matches were full of surprises and contained everything one could hope for from a great international tournament.
The overall trend in ‘most’ nations is that, unless it’s a double header, the stadium turn-out is always poor for a women’s event.
But as someone, who is constantly measuring how a hockey tournament performs across various platforms and regions, i can proudly say, that the days of wondering whether a stand-alone women’s international hockey event will survive, are over.
Fourteen teams, seven matches, two win-or-go-home tests — this prolific, undeniable, captivating Women’s Hockey Olympic Qualifier contained melodrama, heartache, incalculable joy, unbelievable comebacks, super saves, last minute winners, and devastating near-misses.
New heights were reached, records broken, and a legacy created.
When the dust cleared, the Indian women had beaten the Americans. Then, there was also the blowout of the Italian women by Germany, shutout of Chile by Great Britain women, and China’s last minute win against the Belgium women in which the Chinese exorcised their Olympic demons, delivering more drama.
The crowd in Dublin who came to support Ireland for the Olympic Qualifiers, looked like they had come to attend a World Cup.
It’s been rare that a crowd of such size gathered for an ‘only’ women’s hockey event and a better ending could not have been scripted nor a better cast of pioneers selected to win the hearts and minds of the estimated 350K people watching in Ireland alone.
This was also the best quality women’s hockey we’ve seen with more conversations supporting the game and realising the need for more visibility and investment.
Both on and off the pitch, the “Olympic Qualifiers” showed the world what female hockey players are capable of and, by default, what women are capable of.
They were selfless, authentic and determined to make a difference.
Thankfully, the best parts of women’s hockey, and this sport in general, have shone through this past fortnight. With Tokyo 2020 Olympics set to come in next year, it can only go up a notch from here.